The Freeman Scotties will defend their State 1A girls basketball title at the Yakima SunDome next week.
Behind a dominating performance on the boards, Freeman knocked off Connell 56-34 at Mt. Spokane High School Friday night in a first-round state tournament game.
The victory punches the Scotties’ ticket into next week’s Hardwood Classic in Yakima, where they will play a yet-to-be-determined opponent in a 2 p.m. game.
Connell plays Okanogan, a 50-46 winner over Zillah, today at 1 p.m. at Mead in a winner-to-state game.
Connell opened the game on a hot shooting streak and taking an early five-point lead midway through the first quarter.
“We’ve started slow a few times this season,” Lakeside’s MacKenzie Taylor said. “We just all know that we have to keep doing our job. When they score four, we have to score five. We don’t panic.”
Freeman (20-1) clamped down on the defensive boards, outrebounding the Eagles 17-7 in the first half, and pushing the tempo to lead by 12 at the break.
“That’s one thing we stress,” coach Ashlee Nimri said. “Defense is always the key, we have to outrebound our opponents by 10, and we can’t turn the ball over.”
Connell (16-6) scrambled to stay in the game and cut the Freeman lead to 10 points with less than a minute to play in the third quarter, but Freeman’s Alyssa Maine drilled a 3 from the top of the key with 13 seconds left in the third and then opened the fourth with another from the same spot to spark another Freeman run.
The difference for Freeman was in its ability to play stronger and more physically against a team that was significantly older.
“We’re young, but most of these girls have been in our program since the sixth grade playing summer ball with us,” Nimri said. “And we have a physical trainer that comes in and works with us all season long. He actually runs with them for a half-hour before we do anything else in practice. We make sure that we’re physically stronger than anyone we play.”
Taylor, the team’s lone senior and the coach’s sister, finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Both were game-high totals. Junior guard Maine added 11 and Sierra McGarity added 10.
“This is my fourth trip to state,” Taylor said about defending the title. “We’ve been playing all year with a great big target on our back. I think we’re used to it. We’re really close as a team and I think we’re all excited.”
La Salle 52, Lakeside 29: A poor second quarter was the beginning of the end for the Eagles (17-10) at Eisenhower High School in Yakima.
La Salle outscored Lakeside 15-2 in the quarter. The Eagles didn’t have an answer to Savannah Bonny, who scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Taylor Fleming led Lakeside with 11 points.
The Eagles have a second shot today, playing a loser-out game against Granger at 1 p.m.
Granger 66, Lakeside 61: The Eagles (16-9) will play in a loser-out game today at 3 p.m. against Zillah at Eisenhower HS after falling to the Spartans.